Suing Your Parents Over an Unfair Will in Ontario

Your sister gets the cabin, your older brother gets the stocks and bonds. You, on the other hand, get left out. You’ve been disinherited. It’s not your fault you don’t see eye to eye with your parents. How unfair!

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Your Rights to Inherit in Ontario

What rights, you say? It’s true you may not have any. Your parents have a responsibility to minor children 18 or under. They can be called upon to financially support you through college or university (one-time only). Just don’t expect to attend part-time or live it up at a frat house while you dabble or dawdle. Family support has its limits.

Married Too Young

For instance, Ontario’s Family Law Act doesn’t require parents to support a married minor under 18. That’s right. Even if your next door neighbour’s son and you have been in love since you were five (he’s to die for), as long as you marry him before you’re 18, your parents can disown you. They could just argue you are financially independent.  

An Exception to the Rule

You do have recourse if you have an ongoing physical or mental disability. Provided you can’t find a way to support yourself due to a disability, your parents’ legal and financial obligations can continue for life. Leaving you out of their will could be overturned in court by filing a claim for “dependent’s relief” under the Succession Law Reform Act.

Common-law Support for Adults with Disabilities

In fact, the right to adult support has improved since 2017. Thanks to a court challenge by Brampton mother Robyn Coates, even common-law parents can now be required to support  you when you have an illness, disability or other reason to be financially dependent.

Fairer Family Law for Ontario Couples

Coates won her case after arguing the law was discriminatory because it burdened common-law parents. Coates’ son Joshua, 22 at the time, has Di George Syndrome requiring 24/7 care. His father supported him financially for five years, then sought a court order to stop the payments. She argued it was unfair that divorced couples had to provide child support, while common-law spouses didn’t. The court agreed and the rest is history.

No Say Over a Will

With those limited exceptions, your parent’s will is theirs to decide. You or anyone else have absolutely no sway over how they divide it. But you say, can’t I sue my parents in court to get my rightful inheritance? You could try. 

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Courts Rule ‘No Moral Grounds’ for Legal Action

Since lawsuits are costly, a 2014 Ontario Court of Appeal case called Verch might discourage you from going any further. The Verch decision ruled adult children have no “moral grounds” to make a legal claim when they are left out of a will.  

Leaving Your Children Out Altogether

Albert Verch left his entire estate to his former daughter-in-law. Her ex-husband sued, claiming their father had a moral obligation to make a just and equitable will. In other words, to give his estate to his children. The court dismissed the claim. Despite arguing their father was mentally incompetent and unduly influenced, his adult, independent children could not prove he owed them anything.

Breaking a Promise to Include You in a Will

Yes but…You might make a case if your parents promised they would remember you in their will provided you helped them in some way (quantum meruit lawsuit). A 1991 Ontario case (Tarantino v Galvano) awarded a daughter compensation for personal care she gave her elderly mother before she died. That case drew a line between moral duty and a contract. The daughter testified they had reached a bargain: she would provide care in exchange for inheriting her mother’s house and being paid for her services. When that didn’t happen, she sued the estate and won.

Promises Cause Financial Grief 

Finally, you could also complain to the court if you made financial decisions thinking you would inherit and those backfired (proprietary estoppel lawsuit). You may have a case if you can show you were reassured by a parent that you had a right to something — for example, land you thought you were inheriting — and you based a decision on that promise, such as building a house on it at your own expense. If your parent then seized the house, saying you didn’t own the land and it belonged to them, you can ask the court to intervene to compensate you for their unfair actions.

Good Luck With That 

Suing your parents or their estate is never easy. Guilt aside, you may have a hard time convincing a court you have a claim. Mind you, it’s never stopped an irate son or daughter before.

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Legal Advice for Suing an Ontario Estate

Before you sue, get legal advice from Axess Law’s Ontario wills and estate lawyers. Book an appointment by calling toll free to 1-877-552-9377 or 647-479-0118 in Toronto or use our online booking form. Our licensed lawyers video conference with you anywhere in Ontario, 7 days a week, day or evening. In person appointments can be arranged at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Etobicoke, Vaughan, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices. 

Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s wills and estate services.